Sometimes an album cover can be its defining feature, especially if the music delivers on a grand scale. The artwork can be what makes an album truly epic and instantly recognisable. Many of the best selling and most acclaimed albums can be easily defined by their artwork, whether it is just a portrait or picture of the artist or band or a painting of something seemingly random.
Can we imagine Abbey Road or Sgt Pepper without their era defining cover art?
The first of two unique Andy Warhol album covers in the late 60s- early 70s, is the Velvet Underground’s debut album ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’. Warhol was a close friend of Underground’s guitarist and singer Lou Reed and the banana logo of this album is instantly recognisable by Warhol’s brand of pop art. It immediately makes the album an intriguing listen, which would revolutionise the sound of the late 60s and early 70s.
‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ by Oasis, captured a moment in time and was arguably at the epicentre of the Britpop movement that captured many people’s attention in the mid- late 1990s. The cover features two men walking down Berwick street in Soho, a street famous for its independent record shops. It is an eerie picture, featuring a bustling street almost deserted aside from the 2 figures in shot. For me, it captures something of the moment in time it is from and is almost as iconic as some of the tracks on the album including “Wonderwall” and “Don’t look back in Anger”.
artwork can be what makes an album truly epic and instantly recognisable
‘Let it Bleed’ by the Rolling stones, features another iconic piece of album artwork, featuring a uniquely bizarre cake part tyre, part canister part pizza, topped with icing. In front of the cake is a record; the cake itself was made by legendary TV chef and author Delia Smith. The album cover is instantly intriguing, being much less straightforward than the Stones previous covers and hinting at a change in sound, as it is quite a dark record and one of their most famous from the 60s. The Stones have often had iconic artwork with Andy Warhol. The jeans cover of their album, ‘Sticky Fingers’ is also an instantly recognisable cover as well as the silver painting that fronts Tattoo you.
Pink Floyd’s era transcending masterpiece, ‘Dark Side of The Moon’, which would revolutionise the sound of Progressive Rock, is one of the most recognisable album covers in pop-music history, with heavy emphasis on a pryzm of light. It reflects, I feel the nature of their work and fits with the tone of the album as a whole and its otherworldly feel.
Another album from the same era, which has a recognisable piece of cover art, is Elton John’s seminal album ‘Goodbye Yellow brick Road’. The cover presents an image of John in a jumpsuit and heels, about to enter the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz. It is a colourful and striking cover that mirrors the glam and rock n roll feeling generated by the songs on the album, which contains classics such as ‘Bennie and the Jets’, the title track and ‘Saturday nights alright for fighting’.
‘The Joshua Tree’ by U2 has come to be their defining album by many, with a heavy focus on America and influences from a plethora of genres including Blues, country, folk and rock. The cover features the four band members, at the iconic Joshua tree location, in the U.S landscape, which for me evokes the epic feel of the album and its range of influences.